3/5 Dempster gets first spring start

Ryan Dempster makes his Cactus League debut on Monday when he and the Cubs face the Athletics. Dempster was the Cubs’ Opening Day starter last year, and could have the same assignment this season. Dale Sveum wasn’t ready to commit on Monday.

“We’ve given it some thought but we haven’t decided anything yet,” Sveum said Monday. “We’re just waiting and seeing how things pan out. We’ll have that done within the next week.”

The deciding factors will be more than performance.

“It’ll be the matchups, how we want to go into the Brewers series [April 9-12], which won’t be that big a deal,” Sveum said. “It’ll be [extended] more into the third series.”

You know Dempster will face the Brewers in that first series. He’s 15-5 with a 2.75 ERA in his career against Milwaukee.

This is Dempster’s ninth season with the Cubs and 15th in the big leagues. His seniority also is a factor.

“That all goes into it, no question about it,” Sveum said. “Who had the better year, the matchups, the leadership, who’s been here the longest, stuff like that, longevity of a career. You can go on and on about the reasons why.”

Last season, Dempster struggled in the first month and was 1-3 with a 9.58 ERA.

“He had an unbelievable Spring Training where he had unbelievable command of his fastball and that might have gotten him into a little bit of trouble because he mentioned he wasn’t using his secondary pitches as much because he was so caught up in having great fastball command in spring,” Sveum said. “He didn’t work on his offspeed stuff in Spring Training.

“The bottom line is, he knew he was better than he showed last year and I think he’s on a mission to prove that he’s the pitcher he was before that.”

— Carrie Muskat

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